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Buying a New Tablet (Useful for #BYOD4L)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 Jan 2014

The BYOD4L Online Event

On Saturday I bought a new tablet. On the same day I read Sheila MacNeill’s blog post on Getting set for #byod4L – what Sheila will be doing this week in which she described how this week she will “getting back into the MOOC saddle again with #byod4L“.

The BYOD4L (Bring Your Own Device For Learning) web site describes how this online event invites people with an interest in the use of one’s own mobile device for learning over the next five days to “bring your own devices for learning: an open course for students & teachers (facilitated, stand-alone, for other groups/courses)“.

My New Device

Before Christmas I had decided to get a new tablet device. I read about developments in the tablet marketplace and decided to get one in the January sales, as I read suggestions that after vendors announcement on new devices at the CES show we would see a reduction in the prices of current versions.

I had no particular platform in mind. I currently have an Android phone (a Galaxy Note 2) which I am happy with (despite my misgivings over the first generation of Android devices and the operating system).  But I also have an iPod Touch, which I was also happy with until it fell out of my short pocket while gardening in the summer and the screen was smashed). In addition for the past six months or so the desktop PC I use in my home office runs Windows 8 – and so the new generation of tablets running Windows 9 was also an option.

I kept an eye on the Hot UK Deals web site and was interested in deals for Android devices such as the Galaxy Note 10.01 (similar to my mobile phone), the Nexus 7 (good reviews) and the Sony Xperia Z 10.1 (waterproof, so I could tweet from the bath!) as well as Windows 8 tablets such as the Dell Venue 8, the Toshiba Encore 8.1 and the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2.

In the process of reading the reviews and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the different models I realised that I was indifferent to the platform. The operating system functionality was similar across devices and the applications I intended to use (a web browser, a Twitter client, a note-taking app, a camera app, an app for storing content in the cloud, iPlayer, etc.) were available across all platforms; indeed my preferred apps (e.g. Chrome, Evernote and iPlayer) were also available across all platforms.

This reminded me of a tweet Mike Ellis posted a few weeks ago during a discussion about the merits of Android versus Apple mobile devices “Not sure about the “future is Android” thing. I think the future probably is “it doesn’t matter”“. I think I’ve shown that, for me, Mike was correct!

One significant decision I had to make was whether I wanted a 7/8″ or 10” device. In the end I decided I wanted a smaller device which was easier to carry and use in bed.

In the end I bought an iPad Mini which was being sold off at PC World. Ironically I spotted this on sale on Boxing Day and took my girlfriend to PC World where she bought the 64GB model for only £300. A few days after seeing the device I decided it was the one I wanted. Unfortunately PC World had sold out, but on Saturday I found that they had one on sale, although this was the 32 GB, WiFi plus cell model. But I’m happy with the device.

Creating Content

If the tools I intend to use are similar across platforms, the differences across the platforms seem to be how I create content. It was for this reason that I looked into the Windows RT platform, and devices with built-in keyboards. However these devices were expensive and I decided that, despite my comments that I am platform-agnostic, I did not want to purchase a Windows RT device since this seems to be an evolutionary dead end, with the low volume of sales leading to a reluctance for software developers to invest effort in developing apps for the platform.

I decided to purchase a Bluetooth keyboard and case for my iPad. But I wonder what other approaches to creating content will be relevant. I decided that the quality of the tablet’s camera wasn’t a factor (my phone has a decent camera and I also have a camera that I can use as a camera :-) But I’m wondering whether to get a stylus – I’d welcome comments on how useful a stylus is, how it could be used and which one to purchase.

I also decided that voice recording wasn’t a factor in selecting a tablet as I suspect that they are all much-of-a-muchness. But what of voice control of a device, such as Siri and equivalent approaches on Android devices? Although I have tried out these technologies I haven’t used them in anger. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has found voice input to be important.

Selection of Apps

If my decision on selection of a tablet came down primarily to price, the more difficult decision is probably which apps to install on my tablet.

Facebook question on_ipad appsWhile waiting for the iPad to charge I asked for advice from my Facebook network.  I was pleased to receive 30 responses, which include the following recommended apps:

Adobe Reader, ArtRage, Blipfoto, Browzine, City Mapper, Evernote, Facebook, Feedly, Flipboard, ForeverMap, Goodreader,  Good Beer Guide,  Google Drive, Google Authenticator, Google+, Instapaper, iPlayer, iSSH, Kindle, LinkedIn,  Movie Vault, Notability, Pheed, Photosynth, Pocket, Procreate, Puffin (for Flash), Rebelmouse,  Tripit, Tuneln Radio, Simplenote, Skitch, Snapseed, Train Times, Triposo, Tweetbot, Units, WhatsApp, Wikipanion, YouTube, Zinio and Zite.

These are all free, I think, so making my tablet a useful device does not appear to mean that there are any additional costs. And it was thanks to my Facebook connections that I was able to get these suggestions.

Your Thoughts

Is my platform agnosticism, unusual, I wonder, or are Apple and Android ‘fanboys’ still in the majority? Will Windows 8 grow in popularity and am I correct in my thoughts that Windows RT will not gain significant market share? These questions may well be relevant for those involved in mobile development work, in choosing which platforms to provide apps for. What are your thoughts?


8 Responses to “Buying a New Tablet (Useful for #BYOD4L)”

  1. sheilmcn said

    Hi Brian

    I have an ipad and the biggest difference to my use of it was getting a decent keyboard and case. With Cetis most of my content creation was text, and the occasional presentation, so having a decent keyboard meant I could type “properly” and could use key board shortcuts – really important when tweeting/notetaking at various events. In terms of apps, Evernote is my go to place – as it syncs on all my devices, phone, ipad and whatever desktop I’m using. Using the ipad has made me use cloud services more. The google apps are getting better on the ipad, but I still find google drive a pain to search:-)

  2. Emma said

    Interesting that you mention that the keyboard is vital for you, Sheila. One of the reasons I’ve not really gone down the 10″ tablet route is that I have a 7″ Nexus & an iPod & a laptop (selected on a combination of low weight & low cost!), so I find that i tend to use the laptop when I want to create, while the Nexus / iPod when I want to consume. That works for me :)
    Stylus; I have a Griffin one ( e.g. ) which seems to work fine on the iPod & Nexus. I did have a cheap one, but it felt “scratchy” so I largely stopped using it.

  3. Emma said

    Oh, and to add to the platform agnosticism:
    Personal devices: Phone – Android (Nexus S, running Jelly Bean); Tablet: Nexus 7 (running KitKat); Desktop: iMac (running Mavericks); old Computer (under TV, used for watching iPlayer etc); Mac Mini (running Mac OS Lion); iPod Touch (iOS 7); Laptop: Windows 8.1
    At work: Desktop: Mac with Mavericks; Laptop; Rather ancient Toshiba M700 tablet, now upgraded to dual boot to Windows 7 & 8. Rasberry Pi (can’t remember which distro is currently on it); OLPC – running whichever version of Sugar is the latest that will run on it; Asus Netbook; with Uberstudent on it …

  4. jPodcaster said

    Agree with Sheila – a keyboard makes a big difference if you do a lot of text input. I have the Logitech keyboard folio with my mini and use it to take notes at meetings (Evernote) as well. However it does add a bit of bulk and you miss out on the lightness of the mini if you want to use it as an e-reader, for example.

  5. […] The BYOD4L Online Event On Saturday I bought a new tablet. On the same day I read Sheila MacNeill's blog post on Getting set for #byod4L – what Sheila will be doing this week in which she described…  […]

  6. Hi Brian,

    Lovely to see you reflecting here on stuff related to BYOD4L. You choose the word event and I like that a lot as learning could/should be seen as an event. I am not very technical and struggle to respond to the aspects about tablets you mention. I was given an iPad from work and am using this. As long as tech works everything is fine for me. If it doesn’t, then the frustration begins… how can I manage that? Any ideas?

    So far, I have only used free apps and have loads (too many?) on my tablet and phone which I never use. There are also loads of games as by boys use it as well. I would add Skype to your list of apps?

    I hope you will find the rest of the event useful ;) Speak again soon.


  7. […] Buying a New Tablet (Useful for #BYOD4L) […]

  8. […] have written two posts this week related to this topic: one on “Buying a New Tablet (Useful for #BYOD4L)” and the other on “Responding to “I Don’t Have Time!” Comments“. In this […]

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